TAIPEI, Taiwan – Former President Clinton (search), visiting Taiwan despite China's warning his trip could violate Washington's "one-China" policy, urged the rivals Sunday to set aside their differences and work closer together economically.
China and Taiwan split in 1949 during civil war, but Beijing (search) considers the democratic, self-ruled island to be Chinese territory. China leaders balk at any actions that they believe lend support to Taiwan's government, and Beijing repeatedly has threatened war if Taiwan moves toward formal independence.
China warned that Clinton's one-day visit could violate a policy under which the United States agrees to have no diplomatic ties with Taiwan and recognizes Beijing as China's sole government.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said last week that Clinton, as former president, should be familiar with "China's solemn position on the Taiwan question."
Though this was Clinton's first trip to Taiwan since being elected president in 1992, he visited the island four times as Arkansas governor and many Taiwanese are fond of him. Listeners packed an auditorium in Taipei on Sunday to hear him.
The former U.S. president said Taiwanese investors in China were giving hope to Chinese workers and could help reduce the possibility of a conflict between the two sides.
"While our differences are important, our common humanity matters more," Clinton said. "The more people have positive things to do, the less likely they are to fall into destructive patterns."
Clinton was to have dinner with President Chen Shui-bian later Sunday, officials said.
Clinton arrived in Taiwan from Japan. He earlier visited China after touring areas in southern Asia ravaged by the Dec. 26 tsunami.